One hundred ninety-five nations came together in Paris to strike a landmark deal to fix our climate once and for all. Just weeks after members of the Islamic State shocked both France and the world, global leaders met to discuss another enemy threatening our planet—climate change. While the agreement is the first of its kind, the effort was mostly political theater. The treaty is filled mostly with gestures and intentions that make for a good start, but won’t instill real change in our climate.
Until the inevitable wake up call arrives, it’s up to us to start leading by example.
While large corporations like Apple and General Mills do what they can to lessen their impact on the environment, many small businesses continue to play their part in polluting our ecosystem. Small business owners aren’t under the same public microscope and may not feel the pressure to practice sustainable business, but our seemingly small actions can add up to something monumental.
If you’re a small business owner and are ready to make a change, these are a few small changes that can make a big impact.
The first step in sustainability is to reduce intake. No recycling or disposal program can fix wasteful intake (that would be like driving a hybrid Hummer). Source reduction is the very simple task of using less at the office—less energy, less materials, less everything.
- Adopt a project management system like Microsoft Sharepoint to avoid printing emails and other documents.
- Reduce electric consumption in the office with the help of laptops that are certified by the International Organization for Standardization, a global leader in environmental responsibility.
- Audit the raw materials that come into the workplace and ensure they come environmentally-friendly manufacturers.
- Consider solar power, especially if your business is in the southwestern United States.
Health and Wellness
While source reduction can help reduce your footprint inside the office, an effective health and wellness program can empower your employees to continue the movement outside the office as well. Incentivizing carpool schedules and bike commuting are a few examples of encouraging a healthy lifestyle while creating habits that can reduce carbon emissions. Also, depending on your state, there are tax benefits for businesses who offer health and wellness programs.
Recycle the Right Way
Paper’s easy. Every office has a clearly marked bin and every major city has a public service to pick up and recycle paper materials. It’s everything else that makes recycling complicated. Cities that support “catch all” bins are convenient for users but cost the city time, money, and resources to separate paper, glass, and plastic at the recycling centers. Businesses would be doing a great service by separating these materials on the front end.
Other companies have more to worry about than just paper and plastic. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lays out a plan for companies to properly dispose and recycle anything from used tires to scrap metal, and even offers a few success stories from companies that benefited from such practices.
Put a Policy in Place
Use the resources from the EPA to develop a long lasting policy that every manager and supervisor can follow. This way the best practices can live on even if you leave the company.